Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Courseblogging: Hey, Victorianists...

How do you keep the energy level of a class from sagging when you teach those long novels? I'm a bit puzzled what to do in the classroom for the next week or so, honestly -- it feels like it takes the students far longer to read a 400-page book than I really have material to fill the class, especially since there's a limit to the number of things we can have a meaningful discussion about when they haven't yet read the entire novel.

We've already had a couple of background-and-historical-context days, and I've tried to have a central theme of sorts for each day's discussion, but I'm already feeling a bit tapped out, and we're only halfway through...

9 comments:

heu mihi said...

Yeah--good question. I'm teaching three 500+-page novels in a row in my seminar--three weeks or so for each--and that's just a LOT of time to fill. (Luckily yesterday was a snow day!) No suggestions, but I'm looking forward to the answers you get!

What Now? said...

Depending on what kind of papers you're having them write, there's always the option of a library research day or a class period spent on writing issues.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Alas, I already spent the first fifteen minutes of today's class on directions for the second writing assignment. (And no library research days in gen ed lit -- I figure I've got enough to do teaching the whole "read the text for yourself and come up with some ideas of your own" bit, and trying to add in secondary sources at this stage just muddies the waters.)

Sisyphus said...

Do a close reading of an important representative passage?

Take two important passages and have the students read them comparatively, in small groups?

Have them make family trees on the blackboard?

have them rewrite the ending/imagine what will happen in the ending/pick their favorite proposed ending?

Have them cast the Hollywood leads for an upcoming movie adaptation and explain their choices? (I know several people who use this one actually in section, but I've never wanted to do it.)

If it makes you feel better, my Victorianist friends keep complaining on facebook about their students falling behind and getting grumpy.

Pour of Tor said...

A series of in-class writing assignments on the development of a key theme or character dilemma, followed by a discussion on the last day where they compare their outlooks at different points in the novel and consider what in the text constructed those shifting opinions?

Why is it that there seems to be no middle ground between a desperate lack of time to cover everything you wanted to cover about a text, and the horrifying prospect of fifteen useless minutes at the end of a class?

Fretful Porpentine said...

Sisyphus -- Thanks for the suggestions!

Pour of Tour -- I don't know! That's one of the frustrating things about surveys, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I usually have discussions questions (handed out in previous class or posted to Blackboard) for each class period. That way, students (in theory) are looking for examples of question 1,2, or 3 while doing that day's reading. And then we have structure for the class, fodder for discussion, etc.

I've also structured a discussion around the intro to a scholarly article: what is this author's thesis? Do you agree / disagree / modify, etc.? How can you support your position with examples from the text? This has worked for me with students doing this work individually and also having students break into groups to come up with their position and then discuss as a whole class.

-Megan

Fretful Porpentine said...

Megan - I may start distributing discussion questions in advance next time around; one student suggested it on a course eval last semester, and I think it's a good idea, just difficult to do when I'm teaching a text for the first time.

Horace said...

Megan's scholarly article idea is a good one. In fact a precursor idea to this one is to introduce students to different schools of thought: How might we think about this text from a feminist angle? from a post-colonial angle? from a Freudian angle? etc. Even if they're only halfway through the novel, the different lenses can help them pull out threads they've been seeing so far, and make predictions for how that thread might play out. It also helps guide their reading ass they move forward.